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What Aspects of Life in Their Respective Times were Subject Jonathan Swift and George Orwell Reacting to in A Modest Proposal and Animal Farm, and how Effectively do they use the Techniques of Satire to convey their Response?

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Introduction

What Aspects of Life in Their Respective Times were Subject Jonathan Swift and George Orwell Reacting to in A Modest Proposal and Animal Farm, and how Effectively do they use the Techniques of Satire to convey their Response? Jonathan Swift and George Orwell may come from very different times- Swift in a country in turmoil during the eighteenth century, Ireland and Orwell in England while Europe was struggling to overcome the strife of the end of World War Two. These dissimilar backgrounds caused the two writers to write profoundly divergent texts. Yet A Modest Proposal and Animal Farm are akin because they are both aimed at exposing a fault in society, in a rather indirect but ultimately much more effective style than if it were said outright. The name given to this technique is satire. An example of this satire in A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of poor people of Ireland from being a burden to their parents and country is apparent as Swift logically atrosious proposes the idea to sell 100,000 babies as food. "There will be fewer Catholics (the "principal breeders"); the poor will at last own something of value and men will treat their pregnant wives as well as they treat mares in foal..." Pretending not to realise the immorality of cannibalism, he makes a point that the poor should make an effort to help themselves, and also that they should be treated better, whereas in Animal Farm, the satire is evident in the way Orwell represents the communist revolution in Russia as a revolt of animals on a farm, and the systematic trial and slaughter of millions of innocent people by Stalin as the killing of a few hens. Orwell was a socialist who detested political lying and inequality. Copious amounts of both occurred in the Russian Revolution of 1917, which is what most induced him to write so bitter a book. ...read more.

Middle

Evidence of this 'ridiculing' of this time is manifest in the precise and 'calculated' style he writes the proposal, "I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably well nursed, will increase to 28 pounds." Connected to that, is the Augustan Age in the reign of Queen Ann. During this period, Jonathan Swift, the poet Alexander Pope and Joseph Addison were among the major literary figures. This is significant because they wrote in a style that employed Roman Terms. These terms were similar to those of Horace, Ovid and Virgil, in the era of Augustus; it is considered the golden age of literature. This use of the ode, emphasised common sense and reason over emotion is known as a neoclassical style. In Animal Farm, George Orwell employs the use of black humour, humour pervaded by cynicism and disillusionment, to hammer home the egregiousness of what happens to Boxer, the horse. He was carted away to the "hospital, in a van Benjamin reads as being marked 'Horse Slaughterer'. But soon after, one of the pigs, Squealer, "a brilliant talker", representing the big lie told by Stalin through propaganda, explains matters: " 'The van had Previously been the property of the knacker, and had been bought by the veterinary surgeon'.... the animals were enormously relieved to hear this". The obviousness of the real situation, and the persona adopted by the writer is humorous, but tragic, in that he does not seem to realise what is going on either. By doing this Orwell also creates irony- a contrast between what seems to happen and what really happens. The apparently na�ve point of view of the lower animals is taken on by the narrator. Thus, this simple irony becomes charged with great intensity, causing great frustration to myself when I read it. What makes this thoroughly striking, though, is the sting in the tail. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is like Orwell is saying that we cannot change this, so we might as well laugh. Swift's black humour is present in the collision of the preceding litotes with the dark proposition of mass genocide, but I think also in the plain sick wit all through the text, for example "I can think of no one objection that could possibly be raised against the proposal." I believe the outcome of Swift's achieves a greater result, but that the irony in Animal Farm is quite brilliant. Swift used his persona to generate irony at every level of the essay so that he can criticise the hypocrisy of the rich, religious bigotry, and others by saying one thing but meaning the other. The political allegory in Animal Farm means that one the one level it is a nice animal story, but on the other it is really condemning communism, and possibly depicting man as faced with the problem of natural hierarchy and inequality. I find Animal Farm's specific brand of irony intriguing and effective. On satirical effect, I feel that A Modest Proposal is the better of the two excellent works. The ingenuity with witch Swift dispatched with Ireland's greatest problems at that time and the brutality that he logically dealt with any objections that might be raised made what I think to be a fantastic satirical work. The confidence and savagery with which he satirised the issues he felt strongest about and the high moral stand Swift took worked more visibly in my mind than the satire of Animal Farm. Although Orwell made superb use of techniques mentioned before, like representing people in general with the cows who believed anything they were told to believe, which made me reflect on the terrors of communism as well as the extent of brainwashing that is incorporated into any political state, I still view A Modest Proposal as the better of the two brilliant works of satire. 1 ...read more.

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